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Bellingham man feeds his soul through dance

I'm a hungry soul. I badger things. I dig for hidden truths. That's why I love dance: I mine it for good things: Want to try it yourself? Launch your browser and Goggle "petite mort 1/2" for a Youtube video.

It's a piece of choreography by Jiri Kylian of the Netherlands Dance Company performed by the same. Once you're done watching tell me: Doesn't this subtle piece of choreography touch a deep place?

Martha Graham once wisely said, "Dance is the hidden language of the soul." In dance you are "in the moment." Dance fulfills a mover on a very deep, very gratifying level. Observing the joy and focus on my fellow dancers' faces as we're really badgering a challenging combination is truly exhilarating. And the palpable feeling of catharsis coming off the dance floor, sweaty and fulfilled, is honestly a pleasure. And honest pleasures are worth digging for.

I chuckle when I get wry looks from my fellow dancers when I say dancers are like sled dogs, but if you think about it, it's true. Dancers are their happiest working hard at moving.

To me the fact that dance is both an art form, a deep and sublime form of communication, and at the same time a "sport" for all practical purposes (who could argue that the dancers in the video clip of The Netherlands Dance Company aren't stunning athletes?) is a pairing par excellence. But truth be told, this language isn't so hidden. Research has found human communication consists of 93 percent body language and paralinguistic cues, while only 7 percent of communication consists of words themselves. Movement is really our first language. Children will often "say" things shyly, hiding behind the parent's leg, or break into spontaneous movement when excited or unhappy. Watching a child shuffle to bed when they would rather stay up becomes a study in blue.

Dancers will often talk of things like body intelligence, movement vocabulary, phrasing, movement metaphor and a host of other qualifiers that point us in the direction of what dance can be as language. Dance is such an incredibly diverse art form: Contemplate the social/political comment of Butoh, often performed at a glacier's pace. Be bowled over by the brash athleticism of a break or hip-hop dance. Swoon to the graceful athleticism of a ballet dancer. Be prepared to be surprised by modern dance, which borrows from it all.

Dance is for everyone, anywhere, anytime. Our instrument is our body and we can cut a rug any old time. Recreational dance allows folks to constructively decompress the stresses and pressures of daily life. It has the deep effect of cleansing our bodies and our minds.

As for me, (and this might be a permission slip for you, too) I started dancing late, when I was 29. When I was a kid I wanted to be a stunt man and always dreamed of flying. When I was older, dance, in a way, seemed like a perfect way to do both. My first dance class was serious ground school. I think I was the only guy in class, as well as a complete beginner. I remember all the girls (who were all really good ... and really kind) helping me out in mid-movement whispering, "just do the feet." Well, after chucking the negative self talk and a little practice, it started paying off and I started getting some roles in local performances. It's really a lot of fun. Though I'm presently de-compressing a couple injuries (another handy skills you develop as a dancer), I'm happily feeling the divine itch welling up once more inside my body whispering: "gotta dance."

You don't need to "be a dancer" to love dance, either. Bellingham is a community that loves dance. There are dance concerts happening all the time. There are open recreational dances of all kinds from the most amazing cultural forms to just basic "free movement dances." There are workshops, master classes and a veritable wealth of various classes happening all the time.

Dance really is part of who we are in Bellingham. Even if you don't partake of dance on the dance floor yourself, consider taking in one of the dance performances offered at any number of venues around our fine town. One of my all-time favorite dances quite literally simply involved shuffling ... it was truly hypnotic. Another was performed in wheelchairs and the audience was entranced.

Dance has so much to offer on so many different levels, I really encourage you to put a foot forward and consider joining in!

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